Over the years I have found many Utilities that have made my computer run efficiently, safely and have just simply made my computing much easier. According to an on-line computer dictionary, a utility is a general term applied to a type of software application that performs specialized functions within a computer. By definition, a utility is not required to make the computer run, but is instead a useful tool that often improves the performance of, or adds functionality to, the computer.
There are so many utilities out there you could fill up your entire hard drive with them! I have downloaded many, tried and kept a few and tried and uninstalled quite a few. I’ll share the ones which I use the most. They are all recommended by several computer help forums and some by computer magazines. I have used each one for at least a year so I feel confident in sharing them as not only potentially useful, but also safe.
So lets get right into opening 'Drac’s Toolbox' and see whats inside.SAFE COMPUTING
I think we’ll start with safety first. I’m not going to address anti-virus software or firewalls. I’m going to assume you update and run your anti-virus software at least once a week. There are many varying opinions on which programs are the best and I will leave that for another conversation.
And I would like to add that while most of the following utilities are free, most of them take donations in the form of Paypal, so if you really feel they are a valuable addition to your computing life, please consider sending the developers a little something.WINPATROL
is probably the most valuable utility I have on my computer. If anything tries to install itself to my startup, my little Scotty dog warns me. Sometimes I want it and sometimes I have no idea what it is and can say no. I rely on it as a security monitor because WinPatrol will alert you to hijackings, malware attacks and critical changes made to your computer without your permission. The following is a quote from their website by PC World magazine.WinPatrol works in two ways. First, when you install a program and it tries to add an icon to the tray at boot-up, you'll get a WinPatrol warning and a way to nip it in the bud (or kill and remove it afterward). That's important for programs such as AOL, Apple's QuickTime, and RealPlayer, all notorious for adding junk icons. WinPatrol also enables you to stop programs such as Adobe Acrobat that insist on running useless, daily version-update checks; and it prevents programs from changing file extensions willy-nilly."
"Second, "...WinPatrol gives you an easy way to comb through existing background-loading programs; its 'info' button provides basic details, including the company name, version, and startup location--enough to help you figure out which entries are removable.
I used the free version for about a year and finally upgraded to the paid version which will tell you everything you want to know about all the background loading programs and many other things. It has already saved me a lot of headaches. Get it here: Win PatrolADAWARE SE PERSONAL (FREE)
This free program is still one of the most highly rated free anti-spyware programs and is well worth the download. However, like many programs, even AdAware has a hard time keeping up with it all. You should run at least two anti-spyware programs. Get it here: AdAware SE PersonalSPYBOT SEARCH & DESTROY (FREE)
I would also recommend using Spybot Search and Destroy. I especially like the Immunize option in Spybot S & D. It will also stop many pieces of spyware before they even get to your computer. Get it here: Spybot Search & DestroySPYWARE BLASTER (FREE)
This little utility just sits in the background and stops thousands of pieces of spyware from even getting to your computer. Get it here: Spyware Blaster
I do not use SPYWARE DOCTOR, but it is consistently rated as the best there is out here. I’ve seen it at Wal Mart for $30.
I want to mention pop-up blockers briefly. There are numerous pop-up blockers out there and I have a small utility which kills the stray one that might get through the blocker in my anti-virus program or the blocker in my Google Toolbar. However, if you are diligent about keeping spyware off your computer, you really shouldn’t have any problems with pop-ups.MCAFEE SITE ADVISOR
. This free web safety tool from McAfee lets you know if a site is safe to visit when you use a seach engine. The safe sites will be marked with a green check mark, the questionable sites with an orange question mark and the unsafe sites with a red X. Move your mouse over the site rating and the rating information will be displayed. Get it here: McAfee Site AdvisorKEEPING IT LEAN AND MEAN
Of course you have disk clean-up and disk defragment in your Operating System which you use periodically. Here is one to help keep clutter off your computer which can slow it down. It is also a registry cleaner and will keep your registry from getting bloated with entries which are no longer valid after you uninstall games and other applications.CCLEANER (FREE)
My second favorite utility is CCeaner, originally known as Crap Cleaner before they tried to “clean up” their image I assume. Again, I can’t say it any better than the website itself. Cleans the following:
Internet Explorer: Temporary files, URL history, cookies, Autocomplete form history, index.dat.
Firefox: Temporary files, URL history, cookies, download history.
Opera: Temporary files, URL history cookies.
Windows: Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary files and Log files.
Registry cleaner: Advanced features to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more... also comes with a comprehensive backup feature.
Third party applications: Removes temp files and recent file lists (MRUs) from many apps including Media Player, eMule, Kazaa, Google Toolbar, Netscape, MS Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more.
Get it here: CCleanerJUST USEFUL (AND FREE)
I have several nifty little utilities which just simply make life easier. Here are some of my favorites.ZDWHERE
. Yes, I know you can add an option to your Send To dialogue box when you right click a folder or icon. But it’s a huge pain. ZDWhere adds an option in the dropdown box to send a file anywhere you choose on your computer. You can decide whether you want to simply copy or completely move a file. You can Browse; you can Clear History; YOU have control of your Send To menu. Unfortunately, it’s now very hard to find. I did find downloads at several websites through links, but I can’t guarantee the safety of these sites. The Zip file is about 170 KB and I will be glad to send it to anyone who is interested.THE CLEANER
. Do you want to run screaming from the room every time you get one of those e-mails which has been forwarded forty-eleven times and has 50 carets in front of each line? I forward about 1 out of 100 e-mails I get (I have several friends who think if you get it you should forward it, but that‘s another subject), but every now and then one of these aggravating e-mails is worth forwarding. I have a wonderful little utility which cleans all the carets away in just one click. Get it here: The CleanerPOWER TOY PHOTO RESIZER
(for XP and Vista only) The Microsoft Power Toy Photo Resizer simply adds an option to resize in the drop-down box when you right click on a photo. I have a couple of software programs which will also do this, but then I have to open the program and import the file to resize. With the Power Toy Photo Resizer you can choose from small, medium, large and hand-held. One click and a copy is made of your photo in the size you selected. Get it here: Microsoft Power Toy Photo Resizer
There are a bunch of other excellent Power Toys on that web page you may want to try.GOOGLE DESKTOP SEARCH
. This free offering from Google has saved my bacon several times. It finds things the Windows Search would never find. Even if you’ve deleted something and it hasn’t been overwritten yet, it will find it. Sort of scary in a way! Get it here: Google Desktop SearchROBOFORM PASSWORD MANAGER
(FREE FOR 10 PASSWORDS) I used to have a tendency to use the same password for almost every site just so I could remember it. Not very smart as you should change passwords at sites that contain sensitive information such as your credit card or bank at least every couple of months. Roboform also allows you to store a lot of personal information such as name, address, credit card info (password protected) on your computer to use in the fill-form option. I really tried to keep it at 10 passwords, but I finally gave up and bought the pay version. I think it was $30. Haven’t regretted it for a second. But if you only have a few passwords, this is the free utility for you. This is from the website. Note that it encrypts your password and using it will defeat key loggers. Again from the website: Memorizes your passwords and Logs You In automatically.
Fills long registration and checkout forms with one click.
Encrypts your passwords to achieve complete security.
Generates random passwords that hackers cannot guess.
Fights Phishing by filling passwords only on matching web sites.
Defeats Keyloggers by not using keyboard to type passwords.
Backs up your passwords, Copies them between computers.
Synchronizes passwords between computers using GoodSync.
Searches for keywords in your passwords, notes and Internet.
Get it here: RoboFrom Password ManagerBELARC ADVISOR
. The Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your computer inclucing installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, Center for Internet Securit benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server. It gives serial numbers and your Operating System key in addition to a lot of other information. I‘ve used several other utilites which do even more, but I like the Belarc Advisor because the results are all on one easy to read and understand page. Get it here: Belarc AdvisorTCLOCKEX
. This author of this program wrote it out of frustration at the taskbar clock for not showing the date. His nifty little freeware program, TClockEx, changes that, and adds more features to it, as well. It lets you change the font size and color of your clock and many other cool features. Get it here: TclockexTHE UNLOCKER
. I was downloading a new version of I-Tunes and my internet service got knocked out for a few minutes in the middle of the download. So I later restarted the download and installed I-Tunes. But, woe! The incomplete download had left an icon on my desktop which I could not get rid of. I tried tweaking the registry, Restoring, uninstalling - all to no avail. The rogue icon just sat there for months annoying the heck out of me. Then I found The Unlocker! I used this little tool once and the offending icon was gone. Then I tried it with a print job that wouldn't work and I couldn't stop in Settings. Voila! The stuck print job was gone! Get it here: The Unlocker
So there you have it. I hope one or more of these utilities from Drac’s Toolbox will help make your computing life safer and easier!